Aptly Named Yahoo Translator

The Formerly Gray Lady, employing the dispassionate search for truth and professionalism that increasingly characterize her, relied for its recent hit job on the Vatican on Yahoo Translator to understand a technical document concerning canon law. Because nowhere in Gotham does there exist anyone who reads or speaks Italian. And the Times has no Italian bureau.

Imagine an Italian trying to ascertain what was going on in an American court proceeding by using a mechanical translator to "read" the prosecuting attorney's memo. Wouldn't you like to know how such a translator would render terms of art such as "work product," "fruit of the poison tree," "privilege," "Mirandize," "standing," "substantive vs. procedural due process," "means testing," "health of the mother," "undue burden"?

Anyone relying on such a document would inevitably reach very mistaken conclusions, indeed might well be utterly clueless about what was actually being said, and that is exactly the case here. The Times reports the Vatican stopped a canonical trial that it in fact urged. The Times claims the Vatican urged "secrecy," which is preposterous, since the case was in the secular papers and was therefore already not secret. Did that give them pause, make a curious reportorial mind wonder what was going on? No, it did not. The Times rushes ahead with its assertion, relying on a bad translation, when the actual document says and means something quite different. What the Times (and Sully and others who ran with the mechanical translation) interprets as "strict secrecy" in fact were the words "in the strict sense." In context, the Sec. of the CDF was explaining the constraints of canon law and the need to prove the crime in the strict sense. Not in strict secrecy as the machine translation says.

And there's more. The entire Times story hinges on the aptly named Yahoo translation.

Italy's Il foglio is not amused.